History of the St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association

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The Alumnae Association of the St. Luke’s Hospital Training School for Nurses was organized in 1897 and incorporated in 1898 under the laws of New York State with the following objectives: “To promote the interests of the St. Luke’s Hospital Training School for Nurses, to raise the standard of nursing generally, to cultivate social intercourse among the alumnae of said school, to assist the members of such corporation in obtaining professional employment, to aid them in promoting and protecting their rights and interests, and to provide a fund for the benefit of sick, infirm, or disabled nurses, graduates of the said school.”

 

   By 1912 the Association had established a sick benefit fund for its nurses, and for the sum of $15,000, endowed a room in the private pavilion of the hospital for ill graduates of the school. Sixteen years later it endowed a second hospital room for Alumnae Association members only; full payment of $25,000 was made in 1928. Funds were raised through card parties, benefit performances, book sales, dinner dances and donations from nurses, physicians, grateful patients and friends of St. Luke’s. When the private pavilions closed, the endowed rooms were no longer available; however, the Association still offers benefit funds to alumnae in need.

 

   Opening a central registry for private duty nurses was arguably its most practical undertaking. In the 1800’s, with few telephones available, private duty nurses made the rounds of physician’s offices where they left their cards. When they finished a case they mailed another card to physicians with the word “disengaged” written on it. The hospital maintained a registry of private duty nurses, but by 1897 found it impracticable to continue. Many of the nurses lived in group residences in Manhattan; the medical staff knew where they could be reached. Indeed, at one time the doctors went to the residences and took the nurses to their cases. Moreover, the hospital annually published contact information of graduates doing private duty nursing. That service was discontinued in 1901; shortly thereafter, the physicians found it increasingly burdensome to call the various residences, and it became glaringly evident that a central registry was needed. The first opened at St. Luke’s in 1904, but for the previous three years private duty nurses had no organized help to secure employment. By 1908 the registry had relocated outside the hospital and was self-supporting, having been subsidized by the Alumnae Association during its first four years.

 

   The Association’s name was officially changed in 1942 to “The Alumnae Association of the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing.” Although the school closed in 1974, there are approximately 850 dues-paying members of the Alumnae Association, which is managed by elected officers and directors, all graduates of the school. The Board conducts business meetings throughout the year; all members are invited to the annual spring luncheon, the Christmas tea, and the autumn memorial service in the hospital chapel.

 

   In 2002 the Board of Directors adopted the following mission statement: “The mission of the Alumnae Association of the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing, New York City, (a not-for-profit organization) is to: maintain and preserve our heritage, provide assistance to alumnae members, and ensure future support of the field of nursing, and all that it encompasses.” In May of that year the graduates voted unanimously to accept the invitation of the The Foundation of New York State Nurses in Guilderland, New York, to endow, for $1 million, its education center, to be named the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Center for Public Education.” Within a few months the Association moved the school archives and artifacts from St. Luke’s to the Foundation.

 

Acting on the recommendation of the Board of Directors, the membership voted to pay the unpledged balance of the $1 million dollars in 2007.  With only a few remaining pledges to be fulfilled, the Board further authorized the Foundation to begin using the funds in endowment. The alumnae of one of the premier nursing schools in the United States consider the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Center for Education a fitting means of keeping the name of their school in the forefront of education, as it was for almost three-quarters of a century. It is their legacy.

 

Arrival day for the Class of '59. Vivian Ahl '32 greets incoming student Arlene Frelin, and Arlene's mother.
Inset photo: Welcoming reception in the nurses' residence. Georgia Doolittle '59 serves punch to an incoming student.



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